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Listen up, Oregon: Your poet laureate is on the air

By Bob Hicks

Some Scatterers may remember this story, from way back in February, when Oregon was searching for a new poet laureate to replace Lawson Fusao Inada, who had filled two terms and was departing gracefully.

clip_image003Mr. Scatter suggested in The Oregonian that, historically speaking, the best qualifications might include a good beard (or at least a good shock of hair) and a cool-sounding name, like Colley Cibber or Seamus Heaney or Blind Harry or, well, Lawson Fusao Inada.

Once again ignoring Mr. Scatter’s unsolicited advice, Gov. Ted Kulongoski instead appointed Portland poet Paulann Petersen, who does not have a beard but does at least have an alliterative name.

Paulann Petersen, Oregon's new poet laureatePetersen seems like an excellent choice, actually. A good poet laureate is, in a sense, an ambassador of the word, and Petersen stressed that point to the committee that recommended her. “Poetry is not the domain of just a few, nor the realm of the elite,” she said. “Poetry is as natural and accessible as heartbeat and breath.” In April, Jeff Baker introduced her well in the pages of The Oregonian, and a few days later the O’s editorial board even chipped in with this nicely considered look at the laureate’s role and how Petersen might approach it.

This afternoon the Oregon Cultural Trust sent notice that Petersen will be the guest Tuesday morning on OPB Radio‘s Think Out Loud public affairs show, with host David Miller. Considering that poetry began as a spoken art form, this seems good and appropriate: We can all gather and listen around the virtual campfire. The show will be broadcast live 9-10 a.m., and rebroadcast 9-10 p.m. The shows are downloadable on the OPB Web site, too.

And that, fellow Scatterers, is the word.